Public might get OK to stockpile flu meds

If government types have their way, the average Joe (or Jane) may soon be urged to buy and store flu drugs for use in an influenza pandemic. Already, governments and even businesses are stockpiling antiviral meds in hopes of curbing the absenteeism and lost productivity a pandemic would inevitably bring. Now, the FDA is talking to experts about the idea of private citizens doing the same.

It's no question that distributing antiviral drugs would be tough in the chaos of a pandemic. But getting the public involved ahead of time would raise some very sticky issues. If pharmaceutical companies were allowed to sell "flu medkits" as proposed, would people store and use the drugs appropriately? Or would they medicate themselves inappropriately, contributing to viral resistance? And would parents be able to figure the proper dosage for their children?

Plus, putting such kits in people's hands would take the responsibility for deciding when a person needs a prescription drug out of the hands of medical professionals. That's not popular with some doctors. But some members of the panel favored the notion, reminding colleagues that personal stockpiling of Roche's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza is already taking place. Said Dr. John Bradley, director of the division of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, Calif."What we need to do is to figure out a way to do it intelligently."

Whatever the agency decides, the panel recommended, it should require Roche and GSK to undertake more research than the companies have so far proposed. Stay tuned.

- read the Canadian Press story